What should I ask a Solicitor before instructing them or what do I need to know when instructing a solicitor?
How do I know the firm are right for me?
Check out their website and areas of law or the solicitors profiles to see who has the capability and experience you need. Look at their testimonials and see what their clients have to say. If you want a personable firm a good indicator is to read their testimonials and see if the language and articles are clear and easy to read.
Do I have to use the solicitor my employer, company or insurer tells me to?
No, you have the right to choose who you want. Do not be pressured into using solicitors on recommended lists or panels if you prefer to instruct someone else with more experience, local knowledge or just because you trust them. You have ‘freedom of choice’. That said often solicitors recommended have agreed a discount fee and will still be impartial so be careful not to lose a deal that may have been agreed on fees, that can suit you.
Does my solicitor have to be local?
No, solicitors can now communicate easily by email, fax, post and telephone so it is not necessary to meet with you. This enables you to instruct any solicitor anywhere in the appropriate jurisdiction. We have a number of clients from abroad and we are able to handle matters remotely, efficiently.
Why are they asking me for my identification?
Proceeds of Crime Act, Terrorism Act and Money Laundering Regulations, as amended, requires all solicitors to check you or your company’s identity and comply with the procedures laid down in the above Acts. Money laundering is the process of preventing criminals benefiting from the proceeds of crime. Solicitors should check your identification documents before accepting any funds from you or carry out a regulated credit check on you, with your permission. They cannot accept cash over £500 or payments from third parties without carrying out checks on that party.
How long should I expect to wait before someone calls me back?
This will vary from firm to firm, but will be set out in their terms and conditions as their anticipated performance targets.
As a potential new client we would expect you to receive a response as soon as possible and certainly within a maximum of 1-2 hours. For existing clients you should receive a response from your fee earner or a substitute within 24 hours and be kept up to date with the progress of your matter on a regular basis.
When will I have to pay?
You can be billed at the end of a matter, at key stages or on an interim/monthly basis depending on the type of matter and its length. You can ask your solicitor to bill you when your legal costs reach a certain level, if preferred, so that you can keep abreast of costs. You should request specific payment terms before instruction, but these must be set out with you in advance.
How much will it cost?
This depends very much on your matter, but costs should always be agreed before instructing the solicitor and set out in your client care letter. These can be varied and change as your matter does but these should always be set out and agreed, with you. A firm can agree fixed or capped fees or if the matter is going be on-going or over a period of months you will be given hourly rates and an estimate.
Estimates can be varied if things arise that were not originally anticipated or the matter becomes more complicated, but you should be given these revised estimates as soon as possible and must be agreed with you before incurred.
What is a Client Care letter, should I have one?
Everyone who instructs a solicitor should receive an engagement letter and terms and conditions, which set out the contract between them and the firm.
The letter should set out amongst other things:
- What they are going to do;
- Hourly rates and how charges are calculated;
- Cost estimates for your matters;
- Who your lawyer will be & any supervisor;
- Who complaints should be addressed to and the Ombudsman details if required; and
- Details of any regulations applicable at the time of instructions.
Will they start charging me from the moment I speak with someone?
You should not be charged for any time on your matter until you have agreed the costs first and signed a client care letter. Some firms, like ours, offer free or fixed fee consultations, you should confirm this before booking the appointment.
Who do I complain to if I have a problem?
The firm’s terms of business will set this out, but you should first raise your issues with the fee earner handling your matter. If there is no resolution then you should write to the Complaints Director or Partner named in the terms setting out clearly your issues. They should investigate the matter and report back to you within a reasonable period. If you are still unhappy you can report the matter to the Legal Ombudsman who will review the matter independently.
Do I have the right to get my file back?
Yes, but your solicitor can hold the papers until you have satisfied your invoices or any issues about the bills have been resolved. This is known as holding a ‘lien’ on the papers. Your file , upon closing, will be held in storage for 6 years.
What VAT is applicable on my bills?
All UK companies and persons are subject to a 20% VAT charge which will be set out on your invoice. If you are a company overseas sometimes this can be waived
Can solicitors give me tax advice?
Unless a firm is regulated by the FCA they cannot give you specific tax or investment advice, but they can give your general advice on tax levels, rates, type of benefits and options available that an advisor could discuss with you.
Can I pay by credit card?
Yes, most firms will accept credit card payments for invoices due, but often if it’s a credit card you will have to pay an admin fee. This should be made clear to you in advance or on the invoice. Some firms, like ours, cannot take payment by card for monies on account.